The Detroit Lions have a new defensive lineman.
The signing comes after some NFL analysts called for the Lions to make an addition to the team’s defensive line. Most notably in May, Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger urged Detroit to sign veterans Matt Ioannidis or Shelby Harris.
Lions Sign Defensive Lineman Christian Covington
A British Columbia native, Covington has made a nice career in the NFL for entering the league as a sixth-round pick.
The Houston Texans drafted Covington at No. 216 overall in the 2015 NFL draft. He made the team during his first training camp and appeared in 15 games as a rookie.
Covington spent four years in Houston, starting nine contests. During his final season with the Texans, he recorded career-highs of 3.5 sacks and 8 quarterback hits.
Despite the career year, Covington became a free agent. He spent the 2019 season with the Dallas Cowboys and then 2020 with the Cincinnati Bengals. In Cincinnati, he started a career-high 14 games and racked up a new career best 39 tackles.
Covington broke that mark with 52 combined tackles the following year while in Los Angeles. In two seasons with the Chargers, he recorded 64 combined tackles, including 33 solos and 4 tackles for loss. He also had 1 sack and 1 forced fumble.
How Covington Fits With the Lions
General manager Brad Holmes signing Covington arguably addresses Detroit’s biggest remaining need.
This offseason, the Lions re-signed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to a two-year deal and picked Western Kentucky defensive tackle Brodric Martin in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft. But the depth chart along the interior of the defensive tackle still lacked veteran experience.
None of the seven defensive tackles on Detroit’s roster before signing Covington were older than 26. Furthermore, three of them have never played a down in the NFL (rookies Martin, Cory Durden and Chris Smith).
Covington will bring a veteran presence to the Lions defensive tackle unit behind projected starters Alim McNeill and Buggs. His NFL career dates back to when most of Detroit’s other defensive tackles were still in high school.
Levi Onwuzurike will also be available again for the Lions, but he is returning from a back injury, which knocked him out the entire 2022 season.
In addition to experienced, Covington is versatile. Last season, he played 94 snaps at defensive tackle and 29 at defensive end.
According to Pro Football Focus, Covington has played at least 60% of his defensive snaps at defensive tackle each of the past six seasons. Most of those seasons, he played more than 70% of his defensive snaps along the interior of the line.
Given Detroit’s defensive tackle depth, that’s likely where he will find his role in 2023. But the Lions could deploy him anywhere along the defensive line.
Regardless of where he lines up, the Lions are hoping Covington bounces back from a disappointing 2022 season.
The Chargers released Covington at the end of the preseason last August. He signed with the team’s practice squad and appeared in four games but played poorly according to PFF.
The PFF player grades ranked Covington 206th out of 221 defensive linemen who played in an NFL game last year. PFF rated Covington particularly poorly in run defense and tackling.
Los Angeles placed Covington on injured reserve for the rest of the 2022 season on November 16.